screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-11-21-31-amThe best way to understand how to successfully manage an online patient community is to participate in one. Be a voyeur. Watch. Listen. Observe. And it doesn’t have to be a patient community; any online community will do. My daughter is a freshman at the College of Charleston and my wife and I have used the parents forum to get acclimated and learn important details about campus life (teenagers aren’t always good about sharing important information). As someone who moderates online communities professionally, participating in the online forum at College of Charleston has been an education. It has also been an affirming experience.

What I admire most about the people who manage the community and moderate the conversation is the patience and kindness with which they deal with worried, aggravated, and frustrated helicopter parents. As an observer, I am stunned by the mundane questions parents post on the forum. “Where is the bus station located in Charleston?” “How can my child get from the airport to their dorm?” “When is fall break?” Most questions could be answered in 10 seconds if the individual used Google or simply visited the College of Charleston website. And people keep asking the same questions over and over, rather than taking a second to review old conversations on the forum.

But the group moderators deal with the questions in a positive and helpful manner, never showing frustration. They are respectful and never cast judgment on the individual asking the mundane question. That’s exactly what it takes to be a successful online community manager.

Another element that contributes to the success of the community is the cohort of parents (two or three) who consistently chime in with helpful advice for the parents posting questions. I don’t know if these are paid Ambassadors or just extremely kind and helpful individuals. Whatever their status, they are the informal group leaders and familiar voices that can be counted upon to share their knowledge. Every successful online community has these leaders who step up and take it upon themselves to keep things moving in a positive and helpful direction.

Oh, and by the way, they talk about healthcare on the forum and parents ask for physician recommendations. This happens quite often. And it happens at nearly every college and university in America! Here’s one example looking for two specialists:


Check out this response to a parent’s request for recommendations for an orthopedic surgeon. The response is coming from a fellow parent who took the time to compile all the information below:

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-6-29-17-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-6-32-17-pmThese online conversations are taking place and most of us are unaware. A good social media audit will uncover many of these platforms where conversations about health and wellness are happening.

Just as an aside, College of Charleston also has a family blog that I’ve found to be an excellent resource.



screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-3-37-48-pmBecause I believe healthcare marketers and communicators have so much to learn from patients and patient stories, I spend a lot of time reading books written by patients or from the patient’s perspective. With that in mind, today’s book recommendation is somewhat of a departure for me. Trauma Room Two is a collection of short stories written by a physician – Philip Allen Green, MD. The stories are fictionalized, but draw upon Dr. Green’s career as an ER physician.

Through Dr. Green’s stories, the reader develops a better understanding of both the patient and the clinician. It probably won’t surprise you that the Emergency Department provides a rich setting for incredibly emotional life and death stories. Even if these stories are fictionalized, the drama and emotions are real. For me, reading a book like this gives important context for everything I do everyday to market services promoting health and wellness. It helps to remind me exactly why I’m in this line of work.

“In every hospital emergency department there is a room reserved for trauma. It is a place where life and death are separated by the thinnest of margins. A place where some families celebrate the most improbable of victories while others face the most devastating of losses. A place where what matters the most in this life is revealed.

Trauma Room Two is just such a place.

A collection of short stories about life in the ER.”

Trauma Room Two is a quick read. I read it a few weeks ago on a flight back from the Health Care Internet Conference (HCIC) in Las Vegas. And it is inexpensive – available in Kindle or paperback ($8.99). I highly recommend picking up a copy and adding it to your reading list.

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-2-04-22-pmIf you’re a fan of digital video content, you should be actively tracking video analytics. Without video analytics, you have no way of knowing what content is performing well and engaging your target audience. At my firm, we use Wistia as our video hosting platform. One of the reasons why we selected Wistia was because of the analytics it provides.

Wistia starts by providing high-level stats—account and project-level trends for our videos. Then it reports video-level trends and  gives data on total engagement, play rate, and action analytics. You can find detailed insights on how the video was viewed—both at the aggregate level through engagement graphs, and individually through heatmaps. You can also look at up-to-date views as they come into the view stream. Gain insights into all identified viewers on the Audience page, see the entire viewing history of a viewer on the viewer page, and manually identify viewers with identity tagging. Finally, Wistia allows you to export all these reports.

In the graphs below, you can check out analytics from a recent video I posted. This represents a day and a half of viewing. Please note that this is only a partial report.




My team and I recently produced a video for one of our healthcare clients. The video, not for public consumption, communicated the value of internal community building and was used to introduce a community building project to employees of our client’s organization. Those employees would eventually play an important role in the project by participating in one-on-one interviews and specially crafted focus groups. The video does a nice job of touching on my thoughts related to the importance of building community within an organization, so I thought I’d share it with you here. I’ve edited out any specific client references and shortened the piece to just over 4 minutes.


If there’s one point of learning I took away from the recent presidential election, it is that neither of the political parties really understood the depth of frustration, anger and alienation felt by a good portion of the American people. Both parties thought they knew their audiences, and both were wrong.

There is great danger in assuming you know and understand your target audience, as the Democratic Party learned earlier this week. As marketers, we live our lives, visit certain stores and restaurants, and travel a very specific path each day. That path is unique for each of us, but limits who and what we see. It alters our perspective. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I went to the NC State Fair in Raleigh. Going to the State Fair is definitely a departure from my typical path. My new mantra is: if you want to know your audience, go to the State Fair! (A county fair will do.)

The truth is, there are entire parts of our communities that we never visit. Honestly, most of us don’t even spend much time speaking with and listening to patients of our institutions. When it comes to understanding the audiences we serve, that should represent the low hanging fruit. But we end up spending a lot of our time listening to stakeholders like physicians, clinical leaders, department heads, etc. We need to invest time observing and listening to key audiences that may be underserved or simply not present in the context of our daily lives. It takes an intentional effort on our part to travel new paths and expose ourselves to different communities of people.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-59-34-pmMany of the people at the State Fair are quite different from the people I interact with each day. From my perspective, going to the fair is equivalent to conducting ethnographic research. These are the people we serve or would like to serve, yet we rarely interact with a good percentage of them. At the NC State Fair I saw a ton of white, working-class people; family people, proudly wearing Trump T-shirts and anti-Hillary shirts. There were also Latino, African American and Asian families – multi-generational groups attending the fair together. We went on a Sunday, so it was interesting to see some families dressed up as if they had just come from church. One of the things I love about the State Fair is the diversity of people from all walks of life who attend. To me, it feels like a great snapshot of a cross-section of America.

Generally speaking, it would be a mistake for me to think I understand these people without first immersing myself in their lives. The disenfranchised white, working class people caught my attention. They wore their discontent on their T-shirts, literally. I have to believe that their daily lives, and perhaps values, are so different from mine (and yours). They probably aren’t shopping at Whole Foods or that fancy suburban grocery store that has a sushi bar and a Starbucks. From focus group research I’ve done I know that when they think about the Walmart brand it has a different meaning for them than it does for me. That’s something to know: brands are perceived differently by different audiences due to demographic, psychographic, cultural and geographic differences. For some, Walmart is great (inexpensive, large selection) while for others it is the last place on earth they’d want to shop. Here’s a link to an excellent article on understanding the white working class (WWC) from Harvard Business Review, “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” by Joan C. Williams, November 10, 2016. (Shout out to my friend, Chris Boyer, for first drawing this article to my attention.)

Where you live can make a big difference in how you see the world. For example, there are people who feel disenfranchised because of the region of the state or country where they live. Many people in North Carolina who live east of Interstate 95 feel they are the stepchildren of the state. They feel forgotten or overlooked. They live in the poorest and most rural section of the state. And it spans a relatively massive geographic area. This group of people feels as though they are defined and limited by their geography. For them, this is a very real condition of their lives.

Looking back at lessons learned from the recent election, my point is that we should always do more to immerse ourselves in the lives of those we seek to engage and motivate through marketing. What does a day in the life of this individual look like? Where do they shop? What is unique about them from social and cultural perspectives? The two best things we can do as marketers are listening and observing. We need to make an effort, an ongoing effort, to understand their world view, wants, motivations and needs. That understanding is foundational to good marketing.

So the next time you get the chance, go to the State Fair! It’s a responsibility of every good marketer.

With all that happened yesterday and early this morning, it seems almost trite to report on the Twitter metrics from the second full day of #HCIC16. Nevertheless, below are the numbers along with data on the top influencers of the conference. The data below are for November 8, 2016 only.

I was excited to see my colleague and Jennings coworker, Kate Gillmer, among the influencers. Dana Smith, another one of my colleagues, led the way in total Tweets for the day.

Yesterday’s Highlights: I attended three presentations that really impressed me yesterday. The first was Scott Stratten’s (@unmarketing) morning keynote. He was spectacular. Anyone who can engage and entertain an audience with meaningful content at 8am should win an award! The second was Dr. Zubin Damania’s lunch keynote. Zubin is best known as ZDoggMD (@zdoggmd). I’ve seen Dr. Damania speak on a couple of occasions prior to this, and he never disappoints. He was amazing. Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about Dr. Damania and his practice, Turntable Health. “ZDOGGMD is a persona that Dr. Damania adopted to present his engaging style of health education. Today, Dr. Damania is CEO and Founder of Las Vegas based Turntable Health – a new health clinic/concept located in and part of Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project.” Below is ZdoggMD’s latest video. Check it out. This one is more heavy than a lot of his videos, and extremely powerful.

The final presentation I want to mention was by Chrisie Scott (@chrisivity), CMO of Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey. She co-presented with a gentleman from Reputation.com. Their talk on reputation management was on point and both presenters did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Overall, the quality of the sessions at #HCIC16 was at a high level, with only a few exceptions, and you have to expect that.

Here are the Twitter Metrics for November 8, 2016:




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